For the assignment I have chosen to analyze the ending sequence of Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 film, Blow-Up. The sequence begins with photographer, Thomas’, return to the park during the day to photograph the dead body and ends with the “End ? title as Thomas fades away. After attempting to make sense of the photographs he took at the park, Thomas discovers that he has, in reality, photographed a murder.
He visits the park late at night preceding the final scenes and finds the body yet upon his return to photograph the body during the day it is no longer there. The scene begins with a shot of Thomas climbing the stairs in the park that lead towards where he originally photographed the couple and the murder. Anticipation is built up by following Thomas’s approach towards the bush then cutting to a shot where we are placed in front of Thomas on the other side of the bush as he looks around and realizes that there is no longer a man’s body there.
It is interesting to notice that before he noticed the body missing as he walked through the park he first adjusts his camera, then holds it by his side in with his hand wrapped around its body and his finger on the trigger; almost like it is an extension of himself. Yet after realizing the body is missing he bends down and begins analyzing the place he saw the body and the hand holding the camera goes limp suggesting that the camera’s purpose is no longer relevant. Instead we begin to follow his gaze as he suddenly looks up at overhanging branches on a tree as they rustle.
In the following shots we follow Thomas as he walks around tentatively, making a stops and circling around. We are also aligned with his gaze as he looks at different things in the park and now he is holding the camera by its strap; further disconnecting him from the body of the camera. Now we have seen that he is not leaving the park the way he came and walks past the bush. Now we are introduced to the second part of the sequence when the clip suddenly cuts to the same group of yelling, trouble making mimes as they drive around the park catastrophically.
The sounds and images of rustling trees from the first part are juxtaposed with the waving and yelling of the mimes as well as the sound of the engine of the truck as it whizzes by. Then, we are placed behind Thomas as he descends stairs and sees the mimes. Though we begin following Thomas as he strolls around the park, the camera is aligned with the movement of the mimes as they drive back around the park and stop their truck next to Thomas, jump out and two of the mimes enter the tennis court while the others line up along the outside of the fence to watch.
We are placed inside of the court with the ?tennis’ players and they begin their match of tennis with an invisible ball and rackets. The mimes, who were once screaming and moving uncontrollably, now play and watch the game in silence. Interestingly, the camera follows the game as if the ball was real and we can faintly hear the sound of a racket hitting a tennis ball. Thomas, who’s attention has evidently been drawn by this odd spectacle, now stands at the corner of the tennis court watching with a slightly amused look.
Yet what stands out to me is that Thomas, a photographer who has expressed his ambition to capture events and people in the real world, does not so much as look at his camera. He is still holding it by the strap and it hangs uselessly by his side while we see his eyes following the nonexistent ball. I would say that the third part of the scene begins when the woman monk runs to Thomas’ corner of the tennis court to retrieve the ?ball’ which she missed and she and Thomas acknowledge each other; she makes a funny sort of shrug and he gives her a nod.
The moment between the two confirms that he is somewhat involved in this game. After this moment the camera flies around, following the ?ball’ very convincingly; perhaps inviting the viewer to spectate this game as well. After a few more hits we are placed behind Thomas as the ?ball’ is hit too hard and flies over the fence. Thomas’ head actually turns as his gaze follows the ?ball’s’ trajectory over the fence and the camera follows it as it invisibly rolls further away.
Because the woman mime knows that Thomas has become involved with the game, she points to him and then to the ?ball’, prodding him to go get it. Instead of making up another fake ball, the one that they were using again gains meaning as it appears to be their only fake ball. Thomas seems to hesitate for a moment before jogging to it, dropping his camera, grabbing the ball and throwing it back. After he throws it back we never return to see the game but instead watch his eyes shift back and forth as it continues before him.
Suddenly, his eyes lower and pause as he appears to be thinking and we cut to a long shot from above of Thomas standing alone in the field whereupon he walks back to his camera, picks it up, turns back to the game and stops, eventually fading away and disappearing from the grass entirely. The end of the sequence is interesting as we see Thomas completely disconnected from his camera when he puts it down to throw the invisible ball. For him the camera is a method of both communication and knowledge.
He has, throughout the film, been searching for the ?truth’ behind the murder in the park by blowing up his photographic images until they are almost unrecognizable representations of reality. He attempts to access reality by distorting it entirely; trying to control his images so they will reveal meaning. He moves through the world by both controlling (photo shoots with models) and displacing himself from it (hiding to photograph the couples).
Upon seeing that the body is missing, he realizes that he cannot attain the truth about the murder he witnessed because there is no longer any physical evidence for him to photograph. Thomas gives himself up to the world, he loosens his grip on his camera while he wanders aimlessly until he sees the game; and instead of displacing himself from it by taking photographs, he allows himself to become a part of it. The simple action of throwing the invisible ball back is extremely significant because Thomas’ has evidently confronted the idea of reality without physicality and chooses to participate in the invisible fun.
Perhaps he realizes after acknowledging that the body is missing that he can never gain access to the truth through photography independently because it is a medium of representation and the photograph, like the body, is a physical destructible medium. As a photographer, Thomas has lived in the realm of the visible, if it is not visible to him it cannot be real. Upon realizing the body is gone Thomas begins to look around and notice things, he invests himself in a fake game of Tennis, a game in which it actually does not matter what is visible and/or non-existent.
Mimes themselves are figures that work with what cannot be seen and upon interacting with them Thomas seems to understand that reality lies between the visible and non-visible. Thomas’ disappearance at the end of the film is then perhaps Antonioni’s way of making ourselves as viewers aware of the fictional nature of what we are watching. Thomas’ character though meaningful, is fictitious and also acknowledges that like photography, film itself can never as a medium represent the ?real’.